Oculus Rift: Australian Hands On

Years from now the Oculus Rift I hold in my hand will gather dust in your attic. You’ll stumble across it like your very first mobile phone. I can’t believe how big this thing was, you’ll say. How the hell did I walk around with this thing strapped to my head?

You’ll say these things because the technology housed within this clunky device — with its low resolution, its cables that tie you in knots — will be as common and essential as a modern smart phone. It’ll be something everyone recognises. It will be a device that transforms so quickly, evolves so rapidly, that you’ll barely be able to keep pace. It will be streamlined and accessible, it will be overdesigned or under-designed depending on what happens to be fashionable at that specific time. In five years time the Oculus Rift I hold in my hand right now will look and feel like a lumbering brachiosaurus.

And this is not a criticism; quite the opposite. It’s the highest compliment I can pay to a piece of technology that I expect will change lives and almost certainly transform the way we play video games in the very near future.

The Oculus Rift feels like the beginning of something actually incredible.

——————

Strangely, it’s the moments when you’re dragged out of the experience that reminds you how potent the Oculus Rift can be.

I’m staring down at the ocean; I quickly shift round. In the real world I lift my hands, but I can’t see them. It’s instantly disorientating. Consciously I am aware that my own hands will not appear in this virtual simulation, but sub-consciously I expect them to exist in this space. That’s the dissonance right there.

Whoah. This is not real. It's unreal.

But the dissonance only serves to highlight how ‘immersive’ the Oculus Rift experience is. In video game writing ‘immersive’ is a dead, lifeless word, but we must use it to describe this experience because no other word will suffice. ‘Immersive’: the adjective has a new weight and meaning through the existence of the Oculus Rift.

Here’s another example. As a test my friends placed a chair in real life relative to the point where a virtual chair existed in the virtual world. They placed an object on it and asked me to pick it up. As I leaned forward to pick it up I didn’t move forward in the virtual world like I did in the real world — obviously. The disorientation of these conflating worlds was significant, to the point where my brain tried to compensate. My brain tried to tell me that the chair was actually moving away from me.

Mind bending.

Here’s a simpler example: I’ve shown the Oculus Rift to a number of people now and every single person has attempted to walk forward in real life in order to move forward in the virtual world. And every single one felt disorientated, confused and weird when they continued to stand still.

—————— The Oculus Rift makes small things significant again. Take yourself back to your very first gaming experience, walking in a 2D environment, from left to right. Back then it felt like the most liberating experience entertainment could offer.

Now remember the first time you played Mario 64. For the first five minutes you forgot about the Princess, you couldn’t care less about Bowser, you just wanted to run in frantic, careless circles because you could, because that was possible.

The beauty of the Oculus Rift is the resurrection of that feeling; that precise same feeling. Something bewilderingly new; new enough that doing something silly and inconsequential feels like the most important thing you could be doing at that particular point in space and time.

Ironically it’s when playing traditional games — with traditional goals and traditional verbs — that the experience starts to lose its lustre. Playing Team Fortress 2, the instant I placed my hands on the mouse and keyboard the novelty of this strange new experience was sucked right up and out through my fingers. It was all too easy to remember I was playing a video games; all too easy to slip into the same old routines.

It’s hard to say precisely what the Oculus Rift will do for games, how it will change them, if at all. It’s a difficult discussion to have but I will say this: the Rift brings out the game designer in all of us. Everyone I showed it to removed the device with a crazed look and an idea for how it might be used. Every. Single. One.

I can’t wait until I can do this, shoot a gun, move with my feet, explore this type of world, do this thing. They should make a game that lets you this.

They should, they could. Hopefully they will.

That’s the power of the Oculus Rift — it removes the strait jacket and sends your imagination spiralling in multiple different directions at once, towards multiple different stratospheres. Every single person who has received this device in the mail over the last week has opened the box with wide eyes and a giddy feeling in their gut. Every single one of them has an idea for a game and I can’t wait to see if they can transform these wonderful possibilities into a (virtual) reality.


Comments

    I want this so much, but I'm concerned with how much it's going to fuck up my already meh eyesight. But I want Skyrim to be so much more Skyrimmier!

      That old (and incorrect) addage "sit too close to the TV and you'll go crosseyed!" comes to mind right now.

      I'm worried about serious eye-strain from this thing...

    I can’t wait until I can do this, shoot a gun, move with my feet, explore this type of world, do this thing. They should make a game that lets you this.

    You mean like this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qpHWJMytx5I

    Surely some sort of motion capture glove could be invented to make seeing/using your virtual hands a reality... a virtual...reality...

      If you stood in the center of 3 kinect-like devices that mapped your body in real time, and passed that information into the virtual environment, you could have it so that you'd see your actual body from inside the virtual word.

      Well this stuff has already been invented and is in application, primarily in CAD (some parts of the auto and aerospace industry use it, also biotech, medical/surgery applications are in research). How long til its mass market, is another question, of course. The issue is primarily cost, not so much technological barriers (although the two are related, of course, as far as cost-effective design is concerned).

        Also, how do you stop yourself from banging into walls and coffee tables in the real world?

      Perhaps a "Power" "Glove" ?

    Did they let you play this game?

    http://rufflesrants.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/oculus2.jpg

    It's pretty good

    While I'm not a fan of the design (even the final design that will go to market) it does seem cool.It will be even better in a few generations time when it's slimmed down and they've improved the screens.

    Last edited 02/05/13 1:21 pm

      The final design hasn't been shown yet. This is an early dev kit, using a 7in screen. The final version is going to be much smaller, and higher resolution (Think a 5in OLED Galaxy S4 screen)

    Feels like you're sharing an LSD trip with friends! XD

    Edit: A game like The Witness would probably be very cool with this. Dear Esther too. I dunno, just some sort of exploring type of game.

    Last edited 02/05/13 1:30 pm

      Oh gods, Child of Eden + Oculus Rift + naughty substances would be mind blowing...

        Antechamber.

    Great video, guys!

      Big thanks to @benwhite who worked really hard on getting this done and up quickly.

        I said it on twitter, but you guys at Allure should do more video content. It's always crowd pleasing!

    It's a shame they've used a terrible method of doing 3D, ie the depth buffer method, rather than doing it right with a camera for each eye at the video driver level like nvidia 3d vision.

    Last edited 02/05/13 1:30 pm

      That's entirely up to the engine, not the Rift itself; CryEngine does depth-buffer reprojection, but Unreal uses dual renders. Same with Rift-supporting wedge drivers for non-stereo games - Vireo dual-renders, while VorpX lets you switch between the two (though it recommends depth-buffer reprojection).

      There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Reprojection does introduce small artifacts on some edges, but is considerably faster - which can be crucial for minimising latency in VR. Dual rendering gives you a clean image, but needs beefier hardware, and can sometimes result in major artifacts with the game's shadow rendering or post-processed effects. There's a good discussion here.

        I can assure you that games that people have been playing (such as Skyrim) on the rift, have exactly zero 3D support in any part of their engine, so at some point some part of the rift device or driver is doing the work of making the video feed 3D. Cryengine does use depth buffer correct, and as a consequence you get about 20% of the separation of what you get with a dual camera approach. The same is true for Deus Ex : Human Revolution, another depth buffer game. There is no advantage to using depth buffer for properly done 3D as it will always be lacking. Latency is negated by using a DVI, 120hz LCDs, and hardware that works.

        I can direct you to a much more involved conversation here

        http://3dvision-blog.com/8873-my-first-impressions-from-the-oculus-rift-development-kit/

        Or here

        https://forums.geforce.com/default/board/49/

        Start at the top.

        And unless depth buffer is also properly supported in games it too leads to artifacts, as is seen when using systems such as Tridef or the entire 5 games that AMD's depth buffer 3D solution will actually turn of for.

        Now, take a game like the latest Tomb Raider that does a dual camera 3D in engine with a 3D reticule, it is *amazing*. The Witcher 2. The Batman : AA games. Dual camera, incredible 3D.

        I just hope they put out a version that hooks into a dual camera 3D driver in the future, because the people who are drooling over it now would probably have their heads explode at how much better it is.

          Having played Skyrim on my own Rift last night, I can tell you that the stereo 3D support is provided by Vireo, a third-party wedge driver. An alternative is VorpX, though it's not yet publicly available. It's not Skyrim's own engine doing stereo, as you say, and it's also not the Rift's own driver, which is limited to reading and fusing the head-tracking sensors, and providing management and metrics about the device itself.

          I have the Oculus SDK in front of me, and the documentation explicitly advises dual-camera rendering instead of reprojection, citing the edge artifacts. However, this is still up to the developer. The Rift driver provides only an example pixel shader to do the optical distortion - the side-by-side stereo rendering is entirely left to the developer's own code.

          There wasn't much real discussion on reprojection vs dual rendering in those links you provided, and it all seemed to be from the perspective of stereo monitor gaming, not VR. The original link I gave has an excellent discussion of the pros and cons of each, from the VorpX developer who provides the choice of either method.

          I do agree that one of the cons of reprojection is limited separation, but this is less of an issue for VR as separation must be matched to the user's eyes, whereas stereo 3D gaming using a 120Hz LCD (which I also have) often uses exaggerated separation for increased 3D effect.

          On the other hand, one of the main advantages of reprojection is speed. Not everyone has a GTX 690, so very often quality tradeoffs must be made in order to keep framerate at 60Hz, and thus latency to a minimum. Again, this is much more of an issue for VR vs stereo gaming on a monitor, as *any* latency manifests as a slight but disconcerting "wobble" when head-tracking. For modern games on mainstream hardware, the choice is often between accepting reprojection's edge artifacts, or turning the game settings right down to low detail in order to maintain speed.

          Now if you *do* have a GTX 690 (as I actually do), then you can generally run full dual-rendering at full speed with minimal quality tradeoffs. I agree this is usually the better way to go, if you can, but even here there are tradeoffs. Rendering a scene twice is often incompatible with the way many engines do their shadow passes and post-processed water & lighting effects. With Skyrim, for example, there are serious problems with shadows and water effects when using dual rendering, and a lot of discussion on how to avoid this - Skyrim now allows disabling of its deferred shadow pass, but some of the other effects must simply be disabled. Because reprojection uses only a single full render, it avoids most of these issues and is more likely to 'just work'.

          Ideally we will be able to choose either method, based on our hardware and the game engine involved. The VorpX driver offers this choice, for most of its supported games, but I don't have a pre-release build yet so I can't tell you how well it works.

      It's interesting how many people say that, however it all depends on what video formats you are watching and how they are portrayed on the screen itself. Some examples with different videos might change your mind : http://www.your3dcenter.com/watching-videos-on-the-oculus-rift/

      That is if you have the dev kit of the Rift, try out at least the 360 videos mentioned in the post. At least that's what some of my friends tried first and most of them were in awe. Then again, I also had some people who were not impressed at all with the tech.

    They need to mix Oculus Rift and Google Glass together somehow.

    I can see this working really well for Racing Sims.

    Likening it to 'that moment' in mario 64 - priceless. I now want one.

    i can see the potential for it to do more than just games, it'll be a cost effective way for flight simulation, help architects showcase the designs for their clients, it could even improve the scale of how television is watched, literally making us ghosts in our favourite shows

      Some of these applications already use VR/enhanced reality. Flight simulators and helmed-mounted displays (HMDs) in defence, some architects and engineers also use data gloves for CAD. I guess, OR and future developments will be significant though in translating this tech into something affordable, primarily for consumers. So far all previous efforts in that regard have pretty much failed.

    That last image could be a promo shot for the next survival horror game...

    "Oh my God, Occulusrifthead is going to eat us alive!!!!!!!"

    You know @markserrels, the moment you put that Occulus Rift on,
    you looked EXACTLY like one of the robots from Impossible Mission on the Commodore 64.

    "Destroy him, my robots!"

    Explanatory link for the young folk here:
    http://classicgaming.gamespy.com/View.php?view=GameMuseum.Detail&id=94

    ENVY

    Any idea what order number this one was? I'm #82xx, and want it now already.

      Could be anything from 1500 to 3500 (got mine on Monday, 18xx). They haven't been shipping in strict order.

      There's a nifty user-created spreadsheet to keep track.

        Yeah, it's hard to tell what's what with the spreadsheet any more though. There's more above the 3500 mark that have made their way over - I've seen a few in the 4xxx range, and even somewhere saw a report of a guy in Perth getting his 6xxx one.

    I maintain that this just a stepping stone toward the endgame of Augmented Reality glasses tech for games that are actually integrated into the environment around you.

      Agreed. Technically most of the recent tech changes in living rooms, such as surround systems, projectors, motion-capturing essentially show this trend. What MS is working on for the next XBox is another case. Basically its about turning any kind of room into the basis for VR.

      If you strap a 3DS 30 cm away from your face you can already sort of do this =D

      No, virtual reality will always have a place. You can't integrate the environment around you into futuristic racers, or a base floating around in the middle of space. Augmented reality and Virtual reality will offer two vastly different gaming experiences.

    This sounds so cool, but I know it would just make me spew.

    I think this will be really cool with a driving sim, flight sim or space sim... or any sim really.
    Cautiously optimistic.

    Fantastic work on the video - great way to show off a rough idea of what it's like. Really want to give it a shot.

    Oh, and magic cat!

    I think a lot of the motion sickness part of it comes from the lack of physical interaction with what your seeing. That disconnect from what your physically experiencing, and what your brain is saying you should be experiencing due to what your seeing, would definitely start to trip your senses out after a while.

    Maybe if they include things more like gloves that track your hand motion, and perhaps other props to assist your immersion, a lot of that motion sickness component would probably dissipate. (Something like playing CoD, and you get a rifle prop of sorts that is tracked by the game and that sought of thing).

      Yeah...that's pretty much what motion sickness is. I can get it bad enough from just watching a screen, I imagine the OR would be even better at tricking my brain than a 15" CRT. The winning theory seems to be that your brain reckons you've ingested some crazy hallucinogens that need to be expelled immediately.

      The gloves and other accoutrement might help, but it won't get rid of the visual/vestibular system disconnect completely.

      Case in point: car-sickness. Very much a passenger issue, not one for the driver (unless you drive a rocket-powered car perhaps)

    There is a lot going on in the world at the moment that makes me wide eyed about what the future might hold in 20 odd years, this is merely one more step.

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